>> Monday, August 29, 2016
A few days ago I received a giant zucchini squash from a friend - I mean, this was a monster, 15 inches long and about 4 inches wide. Immediately I thought of stuffing it with something, and rummaged through the pantry for inspiration. Some good Italian sausage rounded it out nicely, and we had a carb-free pizza dinner.
One year growing up in the country, our family tried the Great Zucchini Experiment. We decided to cultivate a half acre of squash to sell at the farmer's market. Farmer's markets in that place and time were not filled with trendy gourmet and organic premium vendors; these were farmers selling directly to the produce buyers for canneries, factories, and grocery stores.
Our family plan was to work together on the zucchini plot and split the profits based on the amount of work we each put in. Being the baby and somewhat babied, I am sure I put in the least amount of work, but every Saturday before dawn I'd load up baskets of the squash into the old pickup and we'd sit with the other farmers in our folding lawn chairs while the buyers browsed.
Week after week, no one bought from us. We couldn't understand it. My mom sent me out to scout the competition, and I reported back that we had the biggest squash at the market, way bigger than anyone else's. The squash we weren't selling went week after week into the freezer or onto the table until we all thought we'd die of zucchini poisoning.
Finally mom asked a farmer friend to come take a look at our stock and tell us what we were doing wrong. He picked up a ginormous zucchini. "These are way too big. Seeds get hard in there and they taste bitter; nobody wants to buy them like that." He told us the produce folks were looking for ones about 4 inches long and 2 wide, with evenly green, unblemished skin and a high gloss. They looked for a fresh stem end, too, so we were best off picking them the day of the market if we could.
So that's what makes for the best and freshest squash, and those are the ones I recommend looking for when you're shopping. We took his advice and picked with flashlights in the early morning to get the freshest ones to the market. And it was many years before I could make myself eat zucchini again, after the Williams Zucchini Collective folded.
Ingredients1 pound Italian sausage
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 14-oz. can pizza sauce, or 1 can tomato puree with 1 tsp oregano and 2 tsp basil
1/3 cup water
3 squash, 4-5 inches long
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
DirectionsTake the sausage out of its casing and brown it in a medium skillet until it is crumbly and completely cooked. Set it aside in a bowl, and saute the onion, pepper, and garlic until tender. Add the sausage, sauce, and water, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squashes in half lengthwise and cut off the stem end. Cut out the seeds from the center of each half. Place the squash face-down on a plate and microwave on high for 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
Spray a baking sheet with oil. Place the squash rind-side down and fill with the sausage mixture. Sprinkle with the cheeses, then put it the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the filling is cooked through and the cheese is melted and bubbly.